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Summer 2020 Newsletter

July 10, 2020

Dear alumni and friends,

This semester has been met with unprecedented circumstances. In spite of these challenges, we have much to celebrate.

Please join us in congratulating the following faculty, alumni, and students on their achievements:

  • Birgit Grund has been promoted to full professor. Grund specializes in design and analysis of clinical trials, AIDS research, nonparametric curve estimation, and smoothing methods. Recently, she has been serving on a Department of Health and Human Services panel that is responsible for setting treatment guidelines for COVID-19. The panel’s work was featured in The New York Times in April.
  • Charles Doss has been promoted to associate professor. In recent years, Doss has served as a mentor with the Math Alliance, supporting the study of mathematical sciences by student populations that are typically underrepresented in the field. He has also helped the School of Statistics and the Minnesota Center for Financial and Actuarial Mathematics (MCFAM) to organize Run the World, a machine learning summer day camp for high school juniors and seniors.
  • Nate Helwig shares a joint appointment with the School of Statistics and the Department of Psychology and has been promoted to associate professor. Helwig’s research on smiles and facial expressions has been featured in mainstream publications, including Science Magazine, Popular Science, The Guardian, and The Daily Mail, among others. Additional areas of focus include alcohol consumption trends, climate science, gait and locomotion, neuroscience (EEG and fMRI), self-esteem, and social media trends.
  • Alumna Merlise Clyde (PhD ‘93) was elected as an IMS Fellow this year, cited “for her fundamental methodological contributions in the areas of model uncertainty, Bayesian variable selection, Bayesian model averaging, and effects of priors, as well as for exceptional service to the community.” Clyde was advised by Kathryn Chaloner.
  • Alumnus Rob Weiss (PhD ‘89) was also elected as an IMS Fellow. The election cites “several outstanding and fundamental contributions to the theory and methods related to Bayesian statistics and inference, longitudinal modeling, and their numerous applications to medical sciences and public health.” Weiss also became a fellow of the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA) on account of “the wide-ranging impact of his work in Bayesian modeling in the health and behavioral sciences and as an extraordinary and dedicated mentor of numerous Bayesian statisticians.” Weiss was advised by R. Dennis Cook.
  • 18 outstanding statistics students received awards in 2019-2020. Though our traditional School of Statistics Awards and Fellowships Ceremony was canceled due to COVID-19, we celebrated their achievements with a virtual group photo.

Additionally, after 31 years at the School of Statistics, professor and former director Glen Meeden retired in May. Read on to learn about his contributions to the field, the school, and his students. In this poignant time of change and uncertainty, Meeden’s words provide a welcomed reminder of our fortunate position in the world.

“The modern research university is a wonderful, knowledge generating institution. The current coronavirus pandemic is an unwanted reminder of how important universities are. In the past few years, as I walk around campus, I am often struck by the image of all the people in buildings busily trying to learn more about the world. Then I remind myself how lucky I have been to be part of this process and, for the past 31 years, to be at the University of Minnesota.”

We relish in sharing your good news, especially in these challenging times. Please continue to send us your updates at

Warm regards,

Galin Jones
Professor and Director,
The School of Statistics